Kansas City, Mo. The Stowers Institute of Medical Research will not build its second center in Missouri if the state outlaws stem cell research, Stowers president William Neaves said Friday.
In response, the board of the Economic Development Corp. voted unanimously to oppose efforts in the Legislature to make embryonic stem cell research a crime.
Neaves said that Stowers is planning a 600,000-square-foot expansion valued at up to $250 million. The institute was founded in 2001 by James E. Stowers Jr., founder of American Century Investments, and his wife, Virginia, who funded it with a $1.7 billion endowment.
"Jim and Virginia want desperately for the entire growth to occur in Kansas City, Mo.," Neaves said, "but they and the board have concluded if (stem cell research) becomes a felony, future growth has to occur in a district that allows it."
Mayor Kay Barnes, a member of the board of the EDC, which is the umbrella organization for all city economic development agencies, urged the board to support the Stowers Institute, and criticized opponents of stem cell research.
"We can't overemphasize the importance of this for lives and for the economic development of our community," the mayor said.
Warren Erdman, an EDC board member, has worked with Stowers officials to lobby Missouri lawmakers to support continued stem cell research. He said a political action committee that reports to the EDC has been interviewing prospective candidates about their position on the issue.
Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit, has introduced legislation the past three years that would make the procedure for creating embryonic stem cells a felony. He said he would try again, although he believed a ban was unlikely.
"It will be challenging to get a stem cell ban like that through the legislature," he said. "It's very controversial, and even if the majority wants it, a small minority in the Senate can filibuster and prevent it from passing."
Neaves said he supports legislation that would ban any effort to clone human beings.